What do horned Mexican wrestlers, the legendary Don Quixote and stress relief in the form of Osama Bin Laden all have in common? No, you’ll probably never guess. They’re all part of KT Tunstall’s Japanese experience.
Yes, that KT Tunstall – the Scottish songstress who has so far managed to hawk over 4 million albums worldwide, earn herself two Grammy nominations, pick up three Brit Awards, yet still find it within herself to stay as girl-next-doorish as humanly possible. Prior to her Japan tour in March, the lovely Kate T sat down with Japanzine and explained how things are going so far, highly sought-after terrorists aside.
In a past life you performed in a band called Tomoko, which suggests some prior level of interest in this country.
My friend Gordon is the lead singer of a band called The Aliens. I was living with him when I was gigging with friends, and asked him what I should call my new band. He was in love with a girl called Tomoko, so that was his answer.
When did you first visit?
My first visit to Japan was to play Fuji Rock festival, one of the best first experiences of any country I’ll ever have! All my musician friends told me, “just wait ’til you go to Japan, it’ll rock your world”. And it did. So different, so electric. So old and new all at once.
You’ve spent plenty of time in Japan since then. Any instances of whacked out J-madness you’d like to share with us?
J-madness! That’s good, I’ll steal that. Well… someone complemented me that my gig was like a squid. Also, me and my backing singers danced on the walls of my hotel room – them in power ranger outfits, me as a devil-horned Mexican wrestler – after a late night trip to Don Quixote. I couldn’t fit into any clothes in 109 because they are made for girls as thin as ghosts! I did a great version of Desire by George Michael in the karaoke place that’s in Lost in Translation. I met Jack White, and me and my friend went so crazy sitting in a hotel doing interviews, we dressed up as Osama Bin Laden and Amy Winehouse using bags full of fake hair.
Do you get much chance to listen to Japanese artists?
I love OOIOO. I saw them play in NYC. I love the Flaming Lips, and Yoshimi led me to her band. And Boredoms, who I just watched on YouTube doing a gig with 77 drummers! Brilliant. I also love the 5,6,7,8’s after seeing them in my favourite film, Kill Bill. If they needed an extra backing singer I’d be well into it! My boyfriend has been playing a Ryuichi Sakamoto album at night recently, which I’m really enjoying.
How do you spend a typical day whilst on tour in Japan? Do you get to do much sightseeing?
Sadly, I haven’t had time to see much other than central Tokyo. Because we are never there for long, I’m usually talking to people during most of the day of the show, but dinner is always rocking! I love the restaurants in Japan. Especially raw scallop! My interpreter Yuri showed me how to traditionally finish a Japanese meal with all the clapping and shouting, so we do that in London now. Looking forward to seeing more of the country when we tour in March. I love Japanese landscape art, and got a taste for the natural beauty of the country when we went up to Fuji Rock.
What does your on-tour listening include these days?
All the good new albums – Wilco’s Sky Blue Skye, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss’s Raising Sand, Beck’s Information, lots of blues, a bit of disco, and some good 70’s funk for after shows. I also love newer artists like Teitur, MGMT, King Creosote, and The Ting Tings.
So much has happened to you, and you’re still only in your early 30s. Is it possible to pick out an ultimate high point?
Nope! Every time I get together with friends and family and celebrate all this sparkly madness I feel as high as I ever have. If I absolutely had to choose a list I would say… seeing my album in a record store for the first time, winning my Best Female Brit award, playing Giants Stadium at Live Earth, and my birthday parties where all my musician friends play a cheesy cover.
Some of us at the office believe it was the performance of ‘I Want You Back’ with Jools Holland that cemented your place in musical history. Care to comment?
Why, thank you! I would like to think it had more to do with my very first performance on his show when I played solo with my loop pedal. I performed in front of The Cure, Anita Baker and Jackson Browne; I had only just written Black Horse & the Cherry Tree, had never been on TV in my life, and that was the first recording of the song. Either way, the man can certainly claim a large chunk of responsibility for my success.
You’ve sold millions of albums, won numerous awards and toured the world several times. How do you top what you’ve managed so far?
If I can continue to tour as a musician with a great band beside me, play interesting, beautiful, far-flung places, keep all my old friends and make some new ones, it’ll just keep on getting better.
OK, last question. You’ve got to do a duet with either Wet Wet Wet or Marillion. Who’s it gonna be?
Marillion every time! My brother was a fan, so I grew up hearing ‘Kayleigh’ through his bedroom door – a classic! She’s a lucky lady to have a song that good written for her.
Originally published in Japanzine back in 2007.